A COMMUNITY opera will be performed at a railway museum to highlight the rich history of the area.

Song of our Heartland will commence at Locomotion, in Shildon, on Friday May 29, and Saturday May 30, at 7.15pm and 9pm both days.

Conducted by Hollie Mathieson, it will be performed by the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North and the newly formed Community Chorus, with solo roles shared between members of the Chorus of Opera North and the community participants.

The opera gives an insight into the family of Harold, a former miner and railway signalman, after his death.

Harold’s death impacts his wife Lilian, daughter Jacqueline and granddaughter Skylar, as they face a choice between moving away to find jobs and new opportunities or staying to face an uncertain future.

Driven by her grandad’s spirit, Skylar fights to save the things which are most important to her - the school choir and the abandoned Moonlight Ballroom Theatre.

Written by Durham-born composer Will Todd, storyline by Caroline Clegg and libretto by Emma Jenkins, the new opera has been developed in partnership with members of local communities from south and west County Durham, a region with a strong heritage in mining and railway industries, as well as upland hill-farming.

Commissioned by Northern Heartlands, the opera is being produced by Leeds-based national opera company Opera North, in one of the company’s largest ever community projects.

Jill Cole, director of Northern Heartlands, said: “Song of Our Heartland will be the culmination of our work as a Great Place Scheme in south west Durham.

“We are very lucky to be partnering with such a prestigious organisation as Opera North and it’s been a real pleasure to see how many local people have come forward to take part, both on stage and behind the scenes.

“It’s going to be a hugely exciting and entertaining event; a life-changing experience for those taking part and a real tribute to this unique part of the county, its history and heritage, and to the communities who live and work here.”

Directed by Caroline Clegg with set and costume design by Madeleine Boyd, Song of our Heartland will be performed in an immersive style amongst the trains and exhibits at Locomotion.

Jacqui Cameron, education director for Opera North, said: “We were thrilled to be approached by Northern Heartlands to deliver such an exciting community opera, creating a platform for members of the community to tell their own stories.

“As the opera company of the North of England, we are especially looking forward to performing a large scale piece in the region of south and west Durham for the first time, to be bringing opera outside of the theatre into the truly atmospheric space of locomotion, and most of all to be working with people from each generation in the local community to bring this new opera to life.”

To capture the true spirit of the place and the voice of its people, a series of music, poetry and drama workshops have taken place throughout 2019 in Teesdale, Weardale, Bishop Auckland, Shildon and the ‘Three Towns’ area of Durham, inspiring participants of all ages to share their stories and experiences with the creative team.

Susan Kirkbride, a local participant, said: “Giving local enthusiasts the opportunity to work with professionals in a specialist area of the arts is one thing but to be involved fully from inception through to final production is hugely rewarding!

“Not only that, the project has proved to be fully inclusive, welcoming every and all levels of individuality, ability, mobility and talent. What a 'coup' for Shildon and for this part of Co Durham!”

Tickets are £12.50, £5 for children and concessions, and are on sale now from locomotion.org.uk or via the box office on 01904 685780